Posts Tagged ‘2016 election’

Manafort filing reveals ‘collusion’ — Democrats think they have finally hit pay dirt.

January 10, 2019

Democrats and intelligence experts from both political parties believe information that was accidentally revealed in a court filing from Paul Manafort’s lawyers could be the biggest link yet to President Trump and Russia.

Manafort, while serving as the campaign manager for President Trump’s campaign, shared political polling data with a business associate who also had ties to Russian intelligence. The disclosure occurred by accident after the court filing, which was in response to accusations that Manafort lied during his plea deal agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, was not properly formatted to block out information meant to be redacted.

After a year of lobbing accusations against Trump that he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, Democrats think they have finally hit pay dirt.

“Internal polling data is precious. It reveals your strengths — & your weaknesses. Why share such valuable information with a foreign adversary — unless that adversary was really a friend?” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

In this photo from June 15, 2018 Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Mike McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 under President Barack Obama and is now a professor at Stanford University, said on Twitter: “If proven, then call it by whatever c word that you want — collusion, cooperation, conspiracy — but this is serous.”

It is unclear what data Manafort shared, but the failed redactions show he allegedly gave the information to Konstantin Kilimnik, who has also been charged by the special counsel. It is also unclear how Kilimnik might have used the information.

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Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation

The New York Times reported this week that Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in spring 2016, around the time Trump clinched the presidential nomination.

Most of the data was public, according to the Times report, “but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign,” a person knowledgeable about the situation said.

Manafort wanted the data to be sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the Times reported. Both men had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian parties that had previously hired Manafort as a political consultant.

The court filing also revealed that Manafort has been accused by Mueller of lying about discussing a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign and that Manafort also “acknowledged” that he met with Kilimnik while they were both in Madrid.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said the Madrid meeting took place in January or February 2017, after his work on the presidential campaign was finished.

But others think there’s enough information there to show that Manafort was somehow working with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“The margins the Russians needed to change in key states during the 2016 elections was pretty small. Now we know how they were able to be so precise: Paul Manafort was providing polling data to Russia,” said Steven Hall, the former chief of Russia operations for the CIA, in a tweet.

He later added: “[t]he next logical step is to tie in the fact that we know the Russians wanted to help elect Trump and hurt his opponent. It appears that Manafort and Putin had the same goal, and that Manafort was trying to help the Kremlin.”

John Dean, a White House counsel under President Richard Nixon convicted for his role in Watergate, said: “Big story. New info. Both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, Trump’s top campaign managers, transferred inside polling data to Russian intel guy Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. It’s called COLLUSION!”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee called the revelation about Manafort “one of the most significant activities of this whole investigation.”

“This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real live actual collusion. Clearly, Manafort was trying to collude with Russian agents, and the question is, ‘What did the president know?’” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in an interview with CNN that aired Wednesday. “How is that not evidence of an effort to collaborate?”

He added: “If it’s true that Manafort as campaign chair shared internal polling data with Kilimnik, he was giving the Russians information that would have been useful for their intelligence operation.”

Mueller’s team will respond to the Manafort court filing no later than Monday at midnight, and there is a possibility that more details of the allegations will be revealed.

“Manafort’s lawyers’ general characterization of Mueller’s allegations about Manafort’s conduct in the context of a dispute over whether Manafort violated his plea agreement or not offers a highly imperfect window into Mueller’s understanding of that evidence and how it fits into the larger picture of interactions between the Trump campaign and the Russian state. We will not know what these tidbits mean, if anything, until we see both how Mueller characterizes them and, more particularly, how Mueller situates them against that broader pattern of interactions,” wrote Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a blog post Wednesday.



House Dems to subpoena Donald Trump Jr. first in Russia probe

January 9, 2019

“There were people that were treasonous, there were people that were clearly conspiring to affect the election with the Russians, and it will go down in history as one of the real black eyes in our country.”

House Democrats probing allegations that the Trump presidential campaign worked with Russian operatives to win the 2016 election plan to issue their first subpoena to Donald Trump Jr., according to a top lawmaker.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a key member of the House Intelligence Committee, asked Tuesday night about who would be served first by the panel as it reopens the investigation, said, “Donald Trump Jr.”

Democrats on the panel, headed by Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., have long questioned a report written by the previous GOP majority on the affair and believe that those who testified in private, including the president’s son, were not forthcoming.

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Adam Schiff (File photo)

“There are a number of persons that testified before the committee that I feel were not telling the truth,” said Speier, addressing the Women’s National Democratic Club in Washington.

Trump critics and special counsel Robert Mueller have focused on a 2016 meeting in New York’s Trump Tower, the president’s campaign and business headquarters, between Donald Trump Jr. and others including a Russian linked lawyer.

In a Senate meeting, Trump said that the gathering was innocent and rejected charges of colluding with Russians to undermine Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign.

A House report on the affair also cleared Donald Trump Jr., who has steadfastly denied any charges of collusion with Russians.

Rep. Jackie Speier was at a book signing at the Women’s National Democratic Club Tuesday.

But House Democrats want to go over that territory again. House Judiciary Committee Democrats also plan to play a role.

The lawmaker called the GOP report a whitewash and said the panel will subpoena key documents. “Those documents were never subpoenaed by the Republicans and so they were able to just produce a whitewashed report that probably was written by someone on the presidential staff. I think it was truly a disturbing series of events over the last two years,” she said.

Speier, who was promoting her life story in Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back , said when she left one closed-door hearing on the affair a staffer told her, “They’re all lying.”

The San Francisco Democrat also said that she believes the Mueller team will soon show their hand.

“I think in short order we’re going to see all of the dots connected in a way that shows that there were people that were treasonous, there were people that were clearly conspiring to affect the election with the Russians, and it will go down in history as one of the real black eyes in our country,” she said.

Trump-Russia dossier journalist doubts Christopher Steele’s claims

December 18, 2018

The journalist who was among the first to report on the Trump-Russia dossier suspects many of the allegations made in former British spy Christopher Steele’s collection of memos are “likely false.”

Yahoo chief investigative reporter Michael Isikoff was one of the journalists who met with Steele during the 2016 campaign.

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On Sept. 23, 2016, he wrote an article about former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, which outlined how Page had attracted law enforcement’s attention for allegedly trying to establish back channels between the campaign and Russia and for discussing the lifting of sanctions with Moscow-linked officials. The article was frequently cited during congressional investigations into whether the Justice Department and FBI abused surveillance powers by gathering information on Page, a U.S. citizen, after obtaining warrants based on Steele’s unverified work.

Despite reporting accusations made by Steele, Isikoff told John Ziegler’s Free Speech Broadcasting podcast that many of the claims had still not been corroborated.

“In broad strokes, Christopher Steele was clearly onto something, that there was a major Kremlin effort to interfere in our elections, that they were trying to help Trump’s campaign, and that there was multiple contacts between various Russian figures close to the government and various people in Trump’s campaign,” Isikoff said Saturday. “When you actually get into the details of the Steele dossier, the specific allegations, we have not seen the evidence to support them, and, in fact, there’s good grounds to think that some of the more sensational allegations will never be proven and are likely false.”

Steele’s dossier was funded in part by opposition research firm Fusion GPS, conservative outlet the Washington Free Beacon, the Democratic National Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It contained unsubstantiated claims that Russian intelligence operatives filmed President Trump with prostitutes urinating on a Moscow hotel bed and that Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in August 2016 to make arrangements with agents of Moscow to hack data beneficial to then-candidate Trump. Trump and Cohen have vehemently denied the accusations. The FBI’s inquiry into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia eventually led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Isikoff added that Mueller’s investigation may not be as probative as some pundits hope or believe.

“Why wasn’t he charged with lying about it if that’s what he did? That would have been as serious a lie as the lie he told about the Trump Tower Moscow project,” Isikoff said, alluding to Cohen. “All the signs to me are that Mueller is reaching his end game, and we may see less than many people want him to find.”

Cohen pleaded guilty last month to lying to Congress about the Trump Organization real estate deal. He was sentenced to two months in prison for the charge, which was brought by Mueller’s team. It will be served concurrently with the three years he received as part of the case he faced in New York for campaign finance violations, and tax and bank fraud.

Facebook Urged to Change Leadership by Group of 31 Nonprofits

December 18, 2018

Facebook Inc., reeling from criticism about Russian influence campaigns on its platform, now faces calls for changes to its top management from a collection of 31 civil rights groups.

Organizations including Muslim Advocates, MoveOn, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National LGBTQ Task Force, co-signed a letter asking Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to step down from his role as board chairman. It also requested that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg leave the board entirely. The groups are calling for three new directors to be added, representing their diverse user base, and the dismissal of policy executives Joel Kaplan and Kevin Martin.

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Civil rights groups asked Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to step down from his role as board chairman. It also requested that Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg leave the board entirely.

“We write to express our profound disappointment regarding Facebook’s role in generating bigotry and hatred towards vulnerable communities and civil rights organizations,” the group wrote. “The public has given your company the benefit of the doubt for far too long and ignorance is no longer an excuse. It’s become abundantly clear that, as currently constituted, your leadership team is unable to adequately address the valid concerns of the civil rights community.”

It’s the latest in a steady drumbeat of criticism of the company, as more is revealed about the Russian campaign. On Monday, a report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee explained that on Facebook and Instagram, Russian operatives ran a campaign more extensive than previously understood, targeting specific groups of users, including black Americans, veterans and feminists.


Russian election-meddling used YouTube, Instagram, more than previously thought, Senate Intel report says

December 17, 2018

A comprehensive study compiled for the Senate describing, with new details, Russian efforts to support President Trump’s 2016 campaign and administration is set to be released this week.

The report was conducted by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika. It’s based on data from 2009 to 2017 that was provided to the Senate and House Intelligence committees, The Washington Post reported Sunday. The report offers insight into the use of social media platforms that have received little congressional attention so far, such as YouTube, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest. It also looks at email accounts run by Google’s Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft’s Hotmail.

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The study, which has yet to be publicly endorsed by the Senate intel panel, found Russian inference, spearheaded by the Internet Research Agency, peaked during the parties’ conventions and the presidential debates in 2016. The operations, in particular, targeted right-leaning Americans with issues like gun rights and immigration, while trying to suppress the vote of left-leaning African-Americans.

Researchers slammed Facebook, Twitter, and Google, which supplied the majority of the data analyzed, for their “belated and uncoordinated response” to the Russian disinformation campaign, as well as the companies’ failure to turn over consistently “meaningful” data. They also criticized the tech giants for not picking up on the Russian strategy earlier, given some ads were bought with Russian rubles or with Russian contact information, including via Internet Protocol addresses.

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The report’s findings will be widely disseminated ahead of Democrats re-taking the House in early January, reigniting investigations into the 2016 election. The Senate Intelligence Committee previously concluded in July that Russia played a part in the 2016 campaign.

See also:

New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweep–alert-national&wpmk=1

Dershowitz: Flynn lied, but the FBI acted inappropriately

December 15, 2018

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Harvard Law School Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz weighed in Saturday on how federal authorities treated former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“There are two issues: Did he lie at the time the FBI came to him? The answer is yes. Could he have told the truth? Yes. The second is: Does the fact that he pleaded guilty prove that he’s guilty? Absolutely not. He pleaded guilty because of the enormous pressures on him even though I think he could have won the case,” Dershowitz said in a Fox News interview Saturday.

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Dershowitz said prosecutors want to use anything in Manafort’s past to get him to spill the beans on any wrongdoings he witnessed during the 2016 presidential election. (Image courtesy screenshot)

Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who worked on Trump’s campaign before his short stint as national security adviser, pleaded guilty last December to lying to the FBI about his conversations during the campaign with Sergei Kislyak , the Russian ambassador at the time. Flynn’s charge came about through special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and Mueller cited Flynn’s cooperation with the probe when he requested earlier this month that Flynn not serve time.

“It’s not a proper function of law enforcement or of a grand jury to ask you a question that they know the answer to. Their function is to get new information. But if they already know the answer and ask you the question, it’s for one purpose only: to test your morality, to test your truthfulness,” Dershowitz said.

Earlier this week, the judge in the case requested documents related to Flynn’s FBI questioning, ahead of his expected sentencing next week. The FBI recommended Flynn not have a lawyer present, according to a court filing.

“The FBI shouldn’t be sending people in, telling you not to have counsel, and hope maybe you’ll commit a crime so then they can squeeze you and get you to sing or compose. That’s not way American law enforcement should operate,” Dershowitz said.

Dershowitz said civil libertarians should be concerned about these tactics by law enforcement, pointing to Judge T.S. Ellis III’s criticism of Mueller during the Paul Manafort trial.

“What Mueller is doing is trying it find low hanging fruit, figure out every way to get them to commit a crime, it’s their fault that they commit the crime and then squeeze them so they’ll sing or compose. Welcome to how special counsel operate,” Dershowitz said.

Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud in September in a Virginia trial presided over by Ellis and then pleaded guilty to two felony charges in Washington, a deal that involves cooperation with Mueller’s investigation. Mueller has since claimed Manafort violated his plea deal by lying to investigators.


Alan Dershowitz: Interview of Michael Flynn “The Most Unfair Use of the FBI”

December 14, 2018

Alan Dershowitz called the recent  news report on the FBI interview of Michael Flynn by Peter Strzok and others a “wrongful use of the FBI” and a “classic perjury trap.”

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Dershowitz appeared on the Fox News channel just before 10 am, on Friday, December 14, 2018.

He was commenting on several recent report in the news media that called into question the way the DOJ and FBI handled Michael Flynn, as port of the Robert Mueller investigation of Russia and its involvement in the U.S. 2016 election.

The Wall Street Journal called the FBI interview of Michael Flynn “dodgy.”


Trump: Michael Flynn’s ‘great deal’ is because of how he was treated

December 13, 2018

President Trump defended his former national security adviser Thursday, saying Michael Flynn’s light sentence recommendation is because prosecutors are embarrassed by how Flynn was treated.

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“They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements,” Trump tweeted.

Donald J. Trump


They gave General Flynn a great deal because they were embarrassed by the way he was treated – the FBI said he didn’t lie and they overrode the FBI. They want to scare everybody into making up stories that are not true by catching them in the smallest of misstatements. Sad!……

Flynn pleaded guilty last year to one count of making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Sergei Kislyak, at the time the Russian ambassador. Both Flynn’s lawyers and special counsel Robert Mueller recommended in their sentencing memos that Flynn, who also worked for Trump’s transition team, not have to serve prison time because of his cooperation with Mueller’s investigation.

Former FBI director James Comey and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told lawmakers last year that FBI agents didn’t see anything that indicated Flynn was lying in the interview, though McCabe said his statements were at odds with evidence.

A memo that detailed Flynn’s interview with the FBI revealed officials suggested he not have a lawyer present. The judge in the case requested Wednesday documents related to the interview ahead of Flynn’s scheduled sentencing next week.

Trump, who has frequently decried Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling, reiterated his criticism of the probe Wednesday.

Donald J. Trump



Campaign finance case against Trump is laughably weak

December 11, 2018

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York want you to know the real problem with President Trump paying off a porn star to keep her quiet about their extramarital fling is that his shady lawyer didn’t use campaign funds to do it.

The legal reasoning here is tendentious and the implications are absurd, and it wouldn’t be treated seriously if it were not a Republican politician being targeted for potential prosecution.

When producing and buying time for a campaign ad, the law says a candidate must pay through his campaign. This ensures disclosure of who is funding the candidate’s campaign. The same is true for other campaign expenditures such as renting an arena for a rally, hiring security details for the candidate, and so on.

Washington Examiner

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Trump lawyer Michael Cohen now contends in his guilty plea that he broke the law by paying hush money to two women who say they had sex with Trump. The argument goes that these payments, from corporate accounts, were secret expenditures by the campaign.

Maybe Cohen has more evidence, but if not, the grounds for saying Trump broke a law are laughably flimsy.

The argument is that since the hush money was paid to “influence” the election, it was a campaign expenditure. But by that logic, every dime Chris Christie spent to lose weight before his 2016 run — the diet books, the StairMaster, the bariatric surgery — was a campaign expenditure. If Christie bought a SlimFast shake with his personal money, was he a felon?

Former Federal Election Commissioner Bradley Smith posited another hypothetical: “If a business owner ran for political office and decided to pay bonuses to his employees in the hope that he would get good press and boost his stock as a candidate, would that be a campaign expenditure, payable from campaign funds?”

If a candidate who normally gets a $12 haircut shells out $40 for a better cut, is he a criminal for paying out of his own pocket even though the idea is to look sharp in front of news cameras? If a candidate pays a contested past-due personal bill only to make the headache go away before the debates begin, is he legally required to pay out of his campaign coffers?

Paying such expenses out of campaign funds would probably be unethical and possibly be illegal. If you’re damned if you don’t and damned if you do, then it’s a pretty good sign that either the law is an ass or someone is not reading it honestly.

Cohen pleaded guilty to this campaign finance violation to avoid prison time for more serious tax evasion issues. Just because he pleads guilty doesn’t make Trump a criminal.

From fishy beginning, Mueller case against Michael Flynn nears end with no jail recommendation

December 5, 2018

Michael Flynn has been waiting for more than a year to be sentenced. The retired three-star Army general, who spent 24 days as the Trump White House national security adviser, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to lying to the FBI in the Trump-Russia investigation. He agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.

By Byron York
Washington Examiner

Flynn’s sentencing, which has been delayed a number of times for reasons that have never been disclosed, is scheduled to finally take place on Dec. 18. Late Tuesday, Mueller filed what is called a sentencing report. Citing Flynn’s “substantial assistance” to the investigation, Mueller recommended “a sentence at the low end of the guideline range — including a sentence that does not impose a period of incarceration.”

It’s no surprise Flynn might be spared jail time. So far, two figures in the Trump-Russia matter have been sentenced for lying to investigators, the same offense as Flynn. Alex van der Zwaan, a bit player connected to Paul Manafort, was sentenced to 30 days in jail. George Papadopoulos, a short-time Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, was sentenced to 14 days — and that was after Mueller complained that Papadopoulos had not been cooperative when he was purportedly assisting the investigation.

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Flynn, on the other hand, is a retired general with a long record of service to the United States, which Mueller took into consideration in recommending no jail time. “The defendant’s record of military and public service distinguish him from every other person who has been charged as part of the [special counsel’s] investigation,” Mueller wrote.

What the sentencing recommendation did not address was the sketchy beginnings of the Flynn investigation. It started with the Obama administration’s unhappiness that Flynn, during the transition as the incoming national security adviser, had phone conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Because Kislyak was under American surveillance, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had recordings and transcripts of the calls, in which Flynn and Kislyak discussed the sanctions Obama had just imposed on Russia in retaliation for its 2016 election interference.

There was nothing wrong with an incoming national security adviser talking to a foreign ambassador during a transition. There was nothing wrong with discussing the sanctions. But some officials in the Obama Justice Department decided that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, a 218 year-old law under which no one has ever been prosecuted, that prohibits private citizens from acting on behalf of the United States in disputes with foreign governments.

The Obama officials also said they were concerned by reports that Flynn, in a conversation with Vice President Mike Pence, had denied discussing sanctions. This, the officials felt, might somehow expose Flynn to Russian blackmail.

So Obama appointees atop the Justice Department sent FBI agents to the White House to interview Flynn, who was ultimately charged with lying in that interview.

The FBI did not originally think Flynn lied. In March, 2017, then-FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee that the two FBI agents who questioned Flynn “did not detect any deception” during the interview and “saw nothing that indicated to them that [Flynn] knew he lying to them,” according to the committee’s report on the investigation into the Trump-Russia affair. Comey said essentially the same thing to the Senate Judiciary Committee and, in the words of Chairman Chuck Grassley, “led us to believe … that the Justice Department was unlikely to prosecute [Flynn] for false statements made in the interview.”

FBI number two Andrew McCabe told the House the same thing. “The two people who interviewed [Flynn] didn’t think he was lying, [which] was not [a] great beginning of a false statement case,” McCabe told the Intelligence Committee.

Only later, after Comey was fired and Mueller began his investigation, was Flynn accused of lying. He ultimately pleaded guilty.

Mueller’s sentencing recommendation specifically mentions the suspicion that Flynn violated the Logan Act. It says nothing about the Obama Justice Department’s blackmail tale.

Hill Republicans have been suspicious about the the Flynn case for quite a while. But they have not been able to get their hands on some key documents and testimony that might tell them what happened.

House investigators have a chance to learn more this week when, on Friday, Comey appears for a behind-closed-doors interview with members of the Judiciary and Oversight committees.

Lawmakers have promised to release the transcript of the interview within a day or two of its completion. That might possibly give the public a more complete picture of the Flynn case. Investigators could ask Comey specifically how the agents who interviewed Flynn characterized his answers and behavior. They could ask whether Comey believed Flynn would be indicted. They could ask what evidence Comey saw to suggest that Flynn did, in fact, lie. And they could ask if Comey ever saw the reports, the so called 302s, that the agents wrote describing the interview.

Congress has long ago pressed the Justice Department to hand over the 302s and other documents. So far, the answer has been no. But soon the Flynn case will be entirely over. Perhaps then the public will finally learn what really went on in United States of America . Michael T. Flynn.